Every summer, a Marvel superhero film sweeps into theaters like a breath of fresh air, a standard-bearer. This May, that’s “Captain America: Civil War,” directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. There’s political commentary, emotional stakes and plenty of action, but with a lighthearted quality, zingers and jokes littered throughout to brighten up the atmosphere. There’s a hopefulness that maybe some “enhanced individuals” do the right thing because they still believe in that.
That’s not the only way to do a superhero comic book movie, but it’s dependable, reliable, comforting — like ordering at a chain restaurant. You know what kind of meal you’re going to get every time, and you’ll most likely enjoy it.
“Civil War” centers around the ramifications of the events from “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” wherein the fictional nation of Sokovia was leveled, as well as a mishap in Lagos during an Avengers mission early in the film, which results in the loss of many lives. It’s almost as if there needs to be some regulation on a band of superheroes romping about the globe, intervening in international affairs willy nilly.
Hollywood’s 2015 summer was its second biggest ever, with nearly $4.8 billion in box office. Here are the blockbusters that will hope to match that total, as well as some other notable releases coming in the next four months:
It seems there’s no stopping Garry Marshall’s terrifying cinematic rampage on our nation’s treasured holidays. Having ruined both “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” with his star-packed omnibus projects, the director has burned his way through the calendar, landing on “Mother’s Day” as his next victim.
This time around, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Margo Martindale, Timothy Olyphant, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke and Shay Mitchell, among others, are subjected to the inter-connected, fake heartwarming holiday themed story. It claims to be a tribute to the idea of maternal love, but it’s not even heartwarming or about mothers so much.
Based on a popular Playstation game, the sci-fi animated feature “Ratchet & Clank” seeks to capture the kid-friendly audience this weekend, as well as the gamer crowd who have a familiarity with the space-based game characters. The film is a basic hero story about Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor, also the voice in the video game), a young lombax (a cat-like creature) who dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, only to find that the hero business is much more complicated than it seems.
Ratchet gets his opportunity to sign up when the planets of their galaxy are threatened with “deplanetization” by the evil overload Dreck (Paul Giamatti), a slug-like creature with a sweet ponytail mullet who rides around on a Segway. He’s teamed up with Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman), an alien mad scientist, to equip his giant planet-blasting gun, and the two plot for world domination. The only thing standing in their way are the Galactic Rangers, a crew of fame-obsessed, violent and egotistical space heroes.
How do you solve a problem like Kristen (Stewart)? If you’re the filmmakers of “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” you write Snow White entirely out of the sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The film’s clearly a valuable property, so it’s no wonder that Universal would return to that well with a sequel, this time directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the visual effects supervisor on the first film. But the script acrobatics result in a bizarre prequel/sequel mash up where Snow White doesn’t show up in her own fairy tale.
The film focuses on two of the best elements from the first film: Charlize Theron’s wickedly beautiful and scheming Ravenna, a queen who desires power, and to be the fairest of them all, and Chris Hemsworth’s ruggedly hunky ax-throwing huntsman, Eric. Added to the mix is Ravenna’s sister Freya (Emily Blunt), a literal ice queen; and Sara (Jessica Chastain), a fellow huntsman and Eric’s true love.
How does director Jon Favreau update Rudyard Kipling’s classic story “The Jungle Book,” already a Disney animated favorite from 1967? He looks to “Planet Earth.” The animals rendered in stunningly dazzling 3-D are so realistic, you feel as if you’re watching National Geographic. Favreau even places his camera in shots and angles that seem reminiscent of nonfiction nature programs.
That’s why it’s so jarring when Ben Kingsley’s voice pops out of the mouth of a sleek muscled panther, Bagheera, chatting amiably with man cub Mowgli (astonishingly good newcomer Neel Sethi). The realistic character designs — you can see Bagheera’s fuzzy soft fur perfectly — highlight the dissonance between Mowgli and his adopted wild animal family, a stark gulf between them. It offers a rather different feel to the story, which is otherwise quite faithful to the original source material and the original Disney film.
When you come back to a beloved place after many years, sometimes you find all the faces have changed and the vibe is completely different.
Not so with Ice Cube’s “Barbershop.” Though the third film in the franchise comes a dozen years after part two, “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is as colorful and clever as its predecessors. There are some new faces (including Common and Nicki Minaj) and new elements (an attached beauty shop), but the warm energy, subtle social commentary and big-hearted laughs are the same.
Melissa McCarthy is a two-man woman when it comes to her career. With writer/director Paul Feig, she’s found some of her greatest success, from her breakout in “Bridesmaids,” to the runaway hit of “The Heat,” to last year’s surprise, “Spy.” Then there’s her husband, Ben Falcone, a fellow alum of the Groundlings Comedy theater, with whom she co-wrote, and he directed “Tammy,” and now “The Boss.”
While the Feig films are more tightly and traditionally structured, with a high joke density, the Falcone films have proven to be loose and profoundly weird, with room to indulge in strange bits and riffs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re in the tank for McCarthy’s specific brand of character-driven physical humor. In both “Tammy” and “The Boss,” McCarthy and Falcone take high-concept characters of McCarthy’s — both rambunctious women-children who enjoy rap music and flouting the law — and set them free in a lightly sketched out cinematic world.
“Hardcore Henry” is a front-row type of film. It should be seen and experienced in a theater.
However, no matter where you sit or how you see it, you will still be Henry, or at least under the illusion that you’re him.
Meet Doris. With her glittery cat-eye glasses, wacky vintage wardrobe, and messy mop of a fake ponytail, Doris (Sally Field) cuts the type of figure that’s usually written off as an eccentric supporting character. But, radically, “Hello, My Name is Doris” makes this character the focal point of its story, delving into her inner life, desires and secrets.
The indie dramedy directed by Michael Showalter, co-written by Showalter and Laura Terruso, peels back the layers of quirk to expose the vulnerable underbelly in this empowering tale of self-actualization at any age.
Zac Snyder’s thundering and grim “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” offers the kind of blunt, mano-a-mano faceoff usually reserved for Predators, Godzillas and presidential candidates.
And just as has often been said of this election year, “Batman v Superman” takes a once almost charming tradition and plunges it into the gutter. Long gone are the telephone booths, corn fields or any other such tokens of innocence. And given the prevailing climate, Snyder may have judged the rock’em-sock’em moment wisely. Gentlemen, keep your fists up and your capes neatly tucked.
Back in 2002, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became a bona fide cultural phenomenon, a romantic comedy that mined the cultural specificities of the Greek heritage of unknown writer and star Nia Vardalos. The film picked up an Oscar nomination for Vardalos’ original screenplay, everyone began adding “My Big Fat” in front of various nouns, and we all learned a thing or two about the versatility of Windex. Fourteen years later, Vardalos and gang are back again for another wedding, but this time, it’s to drastically diminished returns.
The screenplay feels as if it was written the year after the first film’s success, just with a few jokes about Facetime inserted for 2016 topicality. The rest of the jokes either don’t land or feel about as fresh as a two-day old spanakopita. The first half of the film is incredibly rough, a stilted, awkward affair where all the timing is off and none of the half-hearted physical comedy or Greek puns truly land.
Of all the post-apocalyptic young adult trifles, the “Divergent” series has been the sexiest — thanks to the steamy make outs between stars Theo James and Shailene Woodley — but it’s also strangely the most sanitized. In the third installment, “Allegiant” (or rather “The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1”), there’s an attempt to dirty things up a bit, venturing outside the wall that separates Chicago from everything else. But all the toxic rain and tent cities in the world can’t give this film a true sense of earthy viscera. Despite all the brawling, shooting and kissing that goes on, these films are entirely bloodless.
Jennifer Lawrence carries “The Hunger Games” series with a throaty raw intensity of performance, and even “The Maze Runner” films have a zip of sweaty adrenaline going for them, but “Divergent,” “Insurgent,” and now “Allegiant” are a trio of interestingly designed snoozes. It could be the casting — as tough but sweet Tris, Woodley just doesn’t have the ferocity of Lawrence, but then again, no one does. There’s no love triangle tension, and Tris and Four (James) remain as deeply committed and in love as ever, their devotion unwavering.
In recent years, there’s been a mini trend of faith-based films concerned with proving the existence of heaven. Based on true stories, films such as “Heaven is for Real” and “90 Minutes in Heaven” take up this task. Ostensibly following on their heels is the Jennifer Garner-starring “Miracles from Heaven,” based on an amazing — and weird — true story. But while the film is centered around Christian-based faith, it argues for the powers of miracles that are of the more terrestrial and quotidian.
Garner is Christy Beam, mother to Anna (Kylie Rogers), who suffers from a debilitating, incurable intestinal disorder. After months in the hospital, one day Anna is playing with her sister, climbing a tree, when she falls, headfirst, 30 feet inside the dead tree trunk. She is stuck for hours. When firefighters pull her out, not only is she unharmed, but she’s miraculously cured. That premise is the one presented in all of the film’s marketing. But “Miracles from Heaven” manages to be more than that.
Be suspect of movies that are infamous before they even hit theaters.
The “they did WHAT” anticipatory glee is generally bound to be a letdown — especially when the big joke is someone getting a disease. In the off-chance that you’ve managed to stay blissfully unaware of the gag, I won’t go into any more specifics. Needless to say, it does indeed happen, it is brazen, and it will leave you dumbfounded.
The best way to approach “10 Cloverfield Lane” is to put all that “Cloverfield” business out of your mind and enjoy the movie for what it is: a taut, expertly-calibrated thriller, set almost entirely within cramped quarters, about three strangers trying to figure out if they can trust each other.
The central protagonist is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a fashion designer who wakes up after a car accident chained to a cot in some sort of underground chamber. Howard (John Goodman), an anxious, worrisome man who brings her food on a tray as if she were a prisoner, tells her there’s been some kind of attack — a “big one” — and that everyone she knows is dead and the planet is either contaminated or poisoned by radiation and they will have to wait a year or two before it’s safe to go outside.
Who are animated feature films for these days? Traditionally seen as children’s entertainment, the higher quality entries in this genre have hit a sweet spot with enough sophisticated jokes for parents to enjoy, coupled with cutesy animation to delight children. Disney’s latest film, “Zootopia” achieves this, though it seems to skew more adult in its content, if not its characters. Somehow, Disney has managed to pull off a hard-boiled police procedural thriller about political corruption starring an adorable, large-eyed bunny. As strange as this combination might seem, it works. Who knew bunnies could make such intrepid rookie cops?
Within the world of “Zootopia,” Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) knows this to be true all along. She’s a plucky bunny from a humble carrot-farming family, who sets her sights on life in the big city of Zootopia, making the world a better place as a police officer. In Zootopia, the predators and prey live together in peaceful harmony — civilized, clothes-wearing city-dwellers.
Journalism is having a moment at the movies.
Days after the journalism procedural “Spotlight” won best picture at the Academy Awards, Paramount is releasing “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” a comic drama about war reporting with Tina Fey as a rookie correspondent finding her way.
After the fake (and occasionally authentic) cultural import of the annual Academy Awards, it should be refreshing to watch Gerard Butler shoot, stab and wisecrack a slew of anonymous Middle Eastern terrorists to death in “London Has Fallen.” But the frenzied sequel to 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” returning Butler to his security detail in the role of the U.S. president’s infallible protector, works on a very low level of bloodthirsty escapism. Around the midpoint, long after London had fallen and couldn’t get up without Butler’s help, I was ready to escape the escapism.
Butler seems to love pretend-stabbing people. Per the script, he does it constantly in “London Has Fallen”: squish squish, to the eyeball! Splurch splurch, over and over, into the nearest terrorist thigh or gut! The way he performs these acts of violence, Butler’s Mike Banning is not just a man of Special Forces killing skills; he’s one step this side of sociopath, and the occasional wisecracks (“Thing are gonna get sporty,” he says, I think, at one point, though the Scottish native’s Yank dialect has its muddy patches) only make him less relatable as an action hero.
A cheery tale of unlikely sporting triumph, “Eddie the Eagle,” directed by Dexter Fletcher, offers up a retro feel-good yarn about the power of determination. While it’s often cookie-cutter sports movie conventional, you’d have to be stone-hearted to remain not-charmed by the story of real-life British ski jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by rising star Taron Egerton.
As a kid, enthusiastic young Eddie declares he’s going to be an Olympian, despite his corrective leg braces and coke bottle glasses, to the bemusement of his sweetly supportive mum (Jo Hartley), and disappointment of his pragmatic working class dad (Keith Allen).
“Triple 9” has everything going for it, and that’s its biggest handicap.
This tale of gangsters and crooked cops in Atlanta has a murderer’s row of acting talent — Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson among them — an alluringly dark premise, and bombastic bursts of greatness. But ultimately, director John Hillcoat (“The Proposition,” “The Road”) fails to meld the storytelling with the film’s ambitious scope, the way Michael Mann so proficiently did 21 years ago with his modern classic “Heat.”